What defines a rugged computer?
- Although there are a variety of testing methods and ratings, there is no single entity that manages, monitors, and enforces a set of ruggedness standards for mobile computers. As a result, the term "rugged" is relative. Just because a manufacturer describes a device as "rugged" doesn't necessarily mean that it fills your particular needs.
- Any "rugged" device has likely been reinforced to some extent and will offer some extra protection, but in order to find out, you need to take a good look at it, know what the listed ruggedness specifications mean, and probably ask a number of questions.
- In fairness to manufacturers, the lack of a clear definition of the term "rugged" is probably as frustrating to them as it is to customers. It makes, for example, no sense to go all out and design a device that is nearly indestructible when all that is needed is protection from a bit of occasional rain or some bumps in the road. In the same respect, if a device must survive under the harshest environmental conditions, then it better be up to the task.
- From a user perspective, ruggedness describes a computer’s ability to operate in any type of exposed working condition, not just for a single use, but for three to five years of its life expectancy. Depending upon the type of work performed, however, what is rugged for one user may not be rugged for another.
- Ruggedness is defined by testing environmental specifications. The three most common tests are for temperature range, military standards (MIL-STD) and IP rating.
MIL-STD TESTING METHODS
- The United States Army’s Developmental Test Command issues MIL-STD-810G ratings on equipment for military (and now, civilian) use. These ratings include 24 laboratory tests in a variety of environments, from high-altitude performance to surviving the ballistic shock. No mobile computer has been tested with all 24 methods, as many of them do not apply to mobile computing — but generally speaking, the more tests a unit passes, the more rugged the unit.
- However, it is very pertinent to note that the MIL-Standards are design standards. So, they allow the severity of a rugged parameter to be tailored according to the conditions anticipated during the service life of the rugged tablet. So, MIL-STD-810G for drop test could be 3 feet or even feet, meaning different levels of ruggedization even though both products have the MIL-STD-810G drop certification.
- Temperature specifications define a device’s operational temperature range. Firehawk purposely targets a broad range of temperature: We offer products that can operate from -20 C up to 60 C.
- IP stands for Ingress Protection. An IP rating describes levels of protection for electrical equipment against solids and liquids. The rating is displayed using two numbers. The first digit describes a level of protection against dust, and has seven different levels from zero to six. The second digit describes a level of protection against liquids (water), and has nine different levels from zero to eight. All of our rugged computers are at least IP65-rated, which means they are completely dustproof and can withstand jets of water.